Beirut: In Memoriam
God Speed Ranger

Libya: Muslim law and secular dreams

If your hope for the latest version of “Arab Spring” to be found in Libya was a secular democratic state, you can quickly forget the secular part of the dream.

The leader of the transitional government declared to thousands of revelers in a sunlit square here on Sunday that Libya’s revolution had ended, setting the country on the path to elections, and he vowed that the new government would be based on Islamic tenets.

Indeed, what has immediately happened is the roll back of many of Gadhafi's decrees that those who’ve now taken over contend violate Sharia law and Islam’s tenets:

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi's era that he said was in conflict with Sharia - that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya's economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. "Interest creates disease and hatred among people," he said.

I’d love to tell you this comes as a complete surprise, but then I’d be acting like some politicians I know. 

I’m certainly not going to contend that keeping Gadhafi was the best thing we could do, but let’s be clear, what has happened darn sure doesn’t seem to be an outcome that we’d have hoped to see either.  At least as it now seems to be shaking out.

In that area of the world, secular dreams seem to me to be the most foolish.  How that particular dream manages to stay alive among the elite of the West is beyond me.  It isn’t now nor has it ever been a probable outcome of any of these so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions.  The revolutions are steeped in Islam because the governments being replaced were relatively secular for the area and the Islamic groups now rising were the ones being repressed.

How someone could believe that out of that situation, secular democracy would emerge still remains beyond me.  No democratic history, no real established democratic institutions and no real democratic experience by the people there.  Yet somehow we’ve determined that this bunch is superior to the last bunch.

Based on what I’ve always wondered?

Yet, we continue to hear the hope proclaimed in each upheaval even as reality seems to dismiss the hope at every turn.

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